By Nnimmo Bassey
The plan to build a city within Abuja to commemorate one hundred years of the colonial amalgamation of the units that make up what is today known as Nigeria raises issues of validity of marking a colonial milestone in this manner.
Abuja is already a growing city with huge disparities in terms of spatial stratification along class lines with demolition of informal settlements a recurrent reality as the poor are forced to beat a continuous retreat as housing estates for the rich grow and expand. The proposed Centenary City if delivered as conceived will reinforce the socio-cultural ambush against the original inhabitants of the territory who are still waiting for compensations decades after the acquisition of their lands.
The City has been announced with fanfare, but many questions surround the enterprise. Has there been any environmental impact assessment for the proposed 1000 hectares development? Are Nigerian architects and urban designers involved in the conception and planning of this scheme?
The city is presented as one that would be green, smart and will be designed and built on the principles of biomimicry especially with regard to the mode of energy and food production, transportation and water supply. However, the allusion to biomimicry appears to be nothing more than a sales pitch. The city will attract mostly air travellers – a means of transportation whose claim to biomimicry may be that the airplanes fly like birds. The designers of the city plan to take advantage of a river flowing through the site by turning it into a lake. turning a river into a lake is a curious form of biomimicry except if inhabitants of the city will be beavers.
The Centenary City will obviously be a speculators’ delight. It will be a duty free zone complete with a tax shelter facilities and special banking regulations. With tax havens heavily indicted in current global financial crisis it is troubling that Nigeria should be planning to mark a colonial milestone with a city that does not address the real urban needs of Nigeria.
For the full article read A centenary speculators haven?
Nnimmo Bassey, Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation and Coordinator, Oilwatch International. The Nigerian architect, environmental rights activist and poet served as chair of Friends of the Earth International (2008-2012). He was a co-receipient of the Right Livelihood Award in 2010 and of the Rafto Prize for human rights in 2012. Time magazine named him one of their Heroes of the Environment in 2009. Bassey has authored books of poetry and others on architecture and on environmental justice.